Idlib deal: A success for Erdoğan?

Putin and Erdoğan agreed on Monday in Sochi to establish a demilitarised zone to avert an offensive against Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria. Russia has sided with Assad in the Syrian war, whereas Turkey is seen as the opposition's protecting power. Commentators believe Erdoğan has scored a success with the talks, and outline Ankara's interests in Syria.

Open/close all quotes
Den (UA) /

Disaster averted again

Writing in Den, Middle East expert Igor Semyvolos sees the provisional agreement on Idlib as a victory for Erdoğan:

“For the Turkish president the main priority was to prevent a large-scale offensive on Idlib, which could have sparked a new flood of refugees and a new crisis in Turkey. What's more, it was absolutely clear that an offensive would have led groups that are regarded as satellites of Turkey to join the Free Syrian Army. ... Consequently Turkey would not be able to avoid direct participation in the fight for Idlib. From this perspective the result is a victory for Erdoğan. Clearly the Russians were obliged to take this step. And Iran has now lost out big time. Because along with Assad, it was the Iranians who were the major force behind the offensive.” (BG) /

Too risky for Moscow after all sheds light on why Putin decided against an offensive in Idlib:

“One key reason is that although the outcome was clear, the battle for Idlib would have been very bitter, particularly since Turkey has infiltrated the city with the fighters of the Free Syrian Army and the National Liberation Front, which are closely allied to Ankara. ... Warnings from Washington that Russia would be held responsible for a new humanitarian crisis and a new wave of refugees no doubt also had a deterring effect on Moscow, but that does nothing to diminish Erdoğan's diplomatic success.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Ankara's main opponent is the Kurdish YPG

Ankara's former goal of toppling Assad and bringing Sunni opposition groups to power is now a thing of the past, Milliyet explains:

“One indication is Erdoğan's words at the press conference in Sochi: 'Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates river pose the biggest threat for Syria's future,' he said. That's why Ankara continues to support the opposition groups: they keep an eye on the [Kurdish] YPG in Syria for Ankara. ... Equally, Turkey's opposition to Assad is based on the YPG issue: Assad's ties to this organisation mean that Ankara doesn't trust him. ... In a nutshell, opposition to Assad and support for the opposition are no longer goals in themselves. Ankara's current and long-term strategy is fighting the YPG. Its stance regarding the regime in Damascus and the opposition are only a means to this end.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

An autocrat as the hero of the day

Turkey is the only force left to protect civilians and democratic forces, the taz laments:

“So that's how things stand: since no one is willing to lift as much as a little finger to prevent mass crimes from being committed against three million people we must now rely on the Turkish autocrat to do the job. Erdoğan and Putin are discussing who gets to stay alive and who doesn't. The West, meanwhile, is looking on from the sidelines. And Berlin is engaged in spurious debates about what Germany should do in case Assad uses chemical weapons once more against his own population in breach of international law. Naturally Germany won't do anything that could influence the course of events: it wants to keep its hands clean.”

The Times (GB) /

Assad is the core problem

Now is not the time to complain about Turkey's role in the Syria conflict, The Times stresses:

“When Mr Erdoğan visits Germany this month, Angela Merkel, the chancellor, will make clear that her country's economic support for Turkey will depend on its ability to filter out the most dangerous jihadists fleeing Idlib. The Turkish president, however, is part of the solution in this final stage of the Syrian struggle, not its core problem. That status belongs to Assad and those in Moscow and Tehran who have propped him up for too long. Assad has shown himself incapable of statesmanship; he is a master only of carnage.”